I wanted to ask-- So you--I think more than almost any other fantasy author--you create universes and then you leave them behind. Entire uni-- I almost feel like you could sit down-- you could have like pages of a physics lecture in each of your universes and you would have equations for how it works. Do you have-- Have you always had these ideas for these various universes with gods and magic systems and things like that, or are you always creating them, sort of as you go?
It's yes and no. A lot of the ones you're seeing in the cosmere are things I created at the beginning to be kind of what the cosmere was. But I left some holes intentionally cause I knew I would come up with cool things that I wanted to add, and so I built in that wiggle room, and I'm always coming up with new ones. And there are way more that I want to do than I can write, like the one I keep wanting to find a chance for is--
Do you guys know how Nikola Tesla tried to create wireless energy? I think I've talked about this one. Like, he tried to create wireless energy, and I'm like "What if there were a world where that happened naturally?" Where you had a natural current going, and you could like set your lantern on the ground and it would create a current from the sky to the ground and your light bulb would just turn on. You don't need electricity. And how would-- What if we have giant toads that could shoot out their tongues that would create a current, and they're like taser tongues? *makes zapping noises* Stuff like this. And so, I started jumping in to looking at electricity and things like this, and current and whatnot, and that's just all back there and I'm like "Aww, someday I need to be able to write this." But there are so many things that I want to write that I just don't have the time for, so it's a yes and no.
So do you have, like, "what if" questions and then you build a universe from there?
Usually they're "what if" questions, but Sanderson's Zeroth Law--I've got these laws on magic you can look up, they're named humbly after myself--so Sanderson's Zeroth Law is "Always err on the side of what's awesome". And usually it's less even a "what if?" and it's a "That's so cool, taser toads!" Like if you really want to know the truth of where The Stormlight Archive started, there's all this cool stuff, like part of it was like "What if there was a storm like the storm on Jupiter". And then I eventually changed it to a storm that goes around the planet, something like that, but the real truth was "Magical power armor. YEAH! Magical power armor is cool! Plate mail power armor! Why would you need plate mail power armor?" Y'know, and it starts with the really cool idea. Mistborn started by me drifting in a fog bank at eighty miles per hour in my car and loving how it looked as it drove past and saying "Is there a world where I can imitate this feel, where you look out and it streams by." It's those early visuals or concepts that make me say "Oh yeah, I wanna do that!". That is where my books really come from, and then I layer on top of them the "what ifs?" and trying to build a realistic ecology based around these ideas.